Christmas is knocking at our door and there will be no street, house or shop that isn’t already dressing up with the season’s decorations and lights, bringing an irresistible and overwhelming joy everywhere.
Christmas has always stood for holidays, traveling, taking part in family traditions and events, organizing dinners with family and friends and going to the traditional Christmas markets that every year in December (mostly) bring life to the squares of towns and cities everywhere in Tuscany.
You’ll find some markets that last up from a few days to several weekends, as well as some others that take place in just one day, but all offer you a taste of the genuine flavors of local Christmas traditions.
Below I’m focusing on markets in Lucca and its province, but wherever you go, you’re likely to find typical Tuscan festivals and events surrounded by a joyful and infectiously spicy atmosphere.
Starting from a pretty unknown locality (but much more precious than other, more famous places!), our first stop is in the charming medieval hamlet on a mountain side that connects the Valdinievole with Bagni di Lucca valley: the name of the town is Colognora, to be precise (close to Villa Basilica). On the 8th of December, this characteristic location will be home to a manifestation called Borgo dei Sapori – Hamlet of Flavors – dedicated to local traditions and typical dishes, having Santa Clause as the festival’s special guest. Wine and food stands will offer typical products, such as dishes made with the season’s chestnut flour – necci (sweet pancakes filled in with ricotta cheese or chocolate), castagnaccio (chestnut cake) – both perfect with a glass of red wine, or those dishes that you may taste all year round, like ribollita (bread soup with vegetables), polenta and so on.
The Christmas stands will also have decorations for houses and trees, every kind of item you can think of for gifts, such as local handcrafts and whatever may come to your mind related to Christmas.
The location is really suggestive: the village, perched on the mountain side with the typical tiny streets of a medieval little town winding along from the main square, offers a wide, breathtaking view on the valley below – simply wonderful!
To get to Colognora, you can take the bus from Pescia, but since it’s a public holiday, I’ll strongly suggest you take the car: passing through Collodi, direction Villa Basilica, it’s just a 15 minutes drive.
Moving towards the seaside, you’ll stumble upon Viareggio and Camaiore, home to traditional Christmas markets (from the 8th to the 26th of December in Piazza Mazzini in Viareggio, and from the 5th to the 24th of December in Camaiore), where you’ll find typical products and local handcrafts coming from all Italy. You could also seize the opportunity to take a walk along the famous Versilia promenade with all its shops (open even on non-working days during Christmas time), bars, restaurant, night clubs, and go on the pretty much deserted beaches and study how marvelous and impressive the sea is in Winter. It will be a relaxing view for your body and mind!
To get to Viareggio (and to Camaiore, which is close by), I strongly suggest you prefer the train (just check trenitalia timetable in advance) especially on sunny Sundays, otherwise you’ll run the risk of traffic on the highway for hours!
Since we’re talking about Lucca and province Christmas markets, I must mention the one taking place in Lucca from the 6th to the 9th of December: you’ll have just a few days for taking part in this event – Natale nel Medioevo, Christmas during the Middle Ages – that will take you back in time and let you taste the traditional and ancient local flavors, surrounded by a wonderful location (Lucca’s old city center) that still preserves its fascinating old aspect.
You’ll easily get to Lucca both by car (A11 motorway Firenze-mare) or public transport (bus and train).
Finally, moving towards the outskirts, there’s another Christmas market that deserves to be mentioned, taking place in Verciano (close to Capannori) on the second and third weekends of December: Pregustando il Natale – Arte, Sapori & Co. (Starting to Taste Christmas – Art, Flavors & Co.). You’ll certainly spend a day dedicated to traditions and delicious products (on both Sundays, the event association will organize lunches with typical dishes of the local Christmas tradition, such as matuffi (polenta with meat or mushrooms sauce) so you’d better reserve your table in advance if you want to enjoy all these delicacies!
Once again, car is preferred to get to Verciano.
That said, all that’s left for me to do is to hope that we’ll meet at one of these Christmas markets, as we savor a delicious glass of red wine or a Tuscan titbit or are busy buying presents for family or friends… In any case, whether we meet up or not: I wish you all a very Merry Christmas! 🙂
About Chiara Ricci
Chiara was born in Pescia, where the province of Pistoia borders with Lucca, has lived and studied in both Florence and Pisa for several years. Traveling is her second passion... Her first one? To swim, but up to now it's still impossible for her to explore Tuscany and the world swimming so she has to use other means!